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Friday 25th May 2018

Smoke-free zones not enough

30th June 2006

The US Surgeon General has concluded only smoke-free buildings and public places truly protect nonsmokers from the hazards of breathing in other people's tobacco smoke.

Some 126 million non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, what US Surgeon General Richard Carmona repeatedly calls ‘involuntary smoking’ that puts people at increased risk of death from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

He said there is no risk-free level of exposure to someone else's drifting smoke, declares the report – a conclusion sure to fuel already growing efforts at public smoking bans nationwide. Fourteen states have passed what are considered comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, those that include restaurants and bars.

But the surgeon general is especially concerned about young children who can’t escape their parents’ addiction in search of cleaner air – around one in five children is exposed to secondhand smoke at home, where workplace bans don't reach. Those children are at increased risk of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome; lung infections such as pneumonia; ear infections; and more severe asthma.

The study is a compilation of the best research on secondhand smoke, the most comprehensive federal probe since the last surgeon general's report on the topic in 1986, which declared secondhand smoke a cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Earlier this year, California health officials estimated that secondhand smoke kills about 3,400 nonsmoking Americans annually from lung cancer, 46,000 from heart disease, and 430 from SIDS.

The tobacco industry and some businesses, particularly restaurant and bar owners are concerned about loss of smoking customers, have challenged some of the broadest public smoking bans in cities and states.

The new report gives new scientific ammunition against those challenges, said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The report also concludes living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s risk of lung cancer and heart disease by up to 30 per cent.


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